“The Great Resignation” has been a hot topic for the last few months with an estimated 95% of workers considering changing jobs, and 92% are even willing to switch industries by the end of the year to find the right position (Monster.com). For years, organizations have taken a hard line on where employees need to work, what hours they need to work, and on what days they have to work, and now these organizations are in danger of losing their most important asset: their people.
Employees are no longer willing to put work first in their lives; they want balance. They are willing to leave their jobs to find what makes them happy. Organizations have started to realize that the retention of these quality employees is more important than having a rigid structure. Organizations should now consider if they can flex the rigid policies or schedules that have existed for years to accommodate this new employee mindset.
Organizations should consider these five areas when reviewing where they could become more flexible in order to retain more employees:
- Flexible Days. Flexibility in what days or how many days an employee works per week. This is a hard mind-shift for organizations that are used to being open Monday through Friday, but many businesses are open 7 days a week. For years these organizations have had to be more flexible in order to schedule employees to cover all 7 days. I spoke to one executive who required all employees to work on Saturday. This executive told me their highest producing salesperson could no longer work Saturdays because she was a single parent. This executive was not willing to flex the policy on working Saturdays and ended up losing her top producer. Many organizations, open Monday through Friday, may need to start hiring 2 people to split the workweek. Would having one person work 3 days and the other work 2 days be a viable option? Why not?
- Flexible Hours. Similar to being flexible on the days worked, being flexible on the hours can help retain more employees. Here in Southern California traffic is bad a couple of hours in the morning and a couple of hours in the late afternoon. Allowing employees to start before or after rush hours helps reduce stress and shorten commute times. Some people may have to take their children to school and then come to work after. When my kids were young, I was working for a telecommunications company and asked for my hours to be 6:30 AM – 3:30 AM so I could avoid traffic and be available to coach my kids after work. They gladly accommodated me, and I was a very dedicated employee. Whatever the reason, organizations should consider flexible work schedules for employees so they can be more accommodating of their needs.
- Flexible Location. Over the last year, many employees worked from home. This allowed employees to avoid the “California Commute,” lower their living expenses (car & food) and spend more time on the things they cared about thus achieving a greater sense of work-life balance. Organizations that quickly adjusted to being forced to go remote found a way to get things done. They have slowly advanced their ability to be more and more effective in this “new normal”, but now they are calling employees back to the office. This “work-life balance” is something many people are not willing to just give up, so they are hesitant to come back to the office full time, and many are leaving their jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in April 2021, almost 4 million people quit their jobs voluntarily. While not all positions can be done remotely, organizations need to determine if some positions can work hybrid or even permanently in a remote capacity.
- Flexible Workspace. With people working remotely or in hybrid schedules, fewer people are in the office at any given moment. This allows organizations to rework their office layout and maximize available workspace. Many organizations are eliminating assigned desks to allow employees to work in a way that suits their individual styles and needs. At one organization here in Orange County, they have a pond surrounded by USB ports, laptop plugs, and tables outside so employees can even sit outside while working. This type of new work environment could also help organizations create larger common areas where teams can come together to brainstorm ideas or collaborate on how to solve a problem.
- Flexible Work Assignments. Feedback on most motivational surveys shows that people want to work for organizations that help them grow. Flexible work assignments allow people who want to develop professionally to try different projects within an organization. Similar to cross-training, this would allow employees to grow their skillset and knowledge making them more valuable to the organization. In turn, employees that take on different assignments for different departments and/or supervisor will have a deeper understanding of the overall organization. They will be ready to step up to the next level in the organization when a position becomes available.
The Great Resignation will have devastating effects on many organizations. By implementing organizational flexibility, when possible, you show employees that you care. This can have a big impact on the retention of top employees and in turn, helps enhance your competitive advantage.